Zhang Guquan was the leader of an indigenous Chinese mission known as the Northwest Spiritual Movement.1 In many ways they were an offshoot of the Jesus Family, which was the first group to receive the Back to Jerusalem vision to preach the gospel throughout the Muslim world, all the way back to the birthplace of the Great Commission, Jerusalem.
Most of the original leaders of the Northwest Spiritual Movement hailed from Shandong, including Zhang Guquan. After graduating from Bible school, he sought the Lord as to what direction his life should take. On one hand,
“He was very much impressed by the communal life-style of the Jesus Family where the members contributed all their individual possessions and held all things in common. On the other hand, he admired the Little Flock for their study of the Bible and their way of penetrating the depth of the Word. During his time of indecision, he seemed to hear a voice speaking directly to him: ‘My child, neither of these is the road you should take. I have something special in mind for you.'”2
This new direction led to the emergence of the Northwest Spiritual Movement. The leaders of this new mission said, “Let’s rise to our feet and carry the cross to the nations where God is not known. Let’s go forth in Jesus’ name, giving up everything we have, even our very lives if necessary, so that the name of Jesus will be glorified among all the Gentiles.”3
The strategy of the Northwest Spiritual Movement was simply to proclaim the gospel, believing that Jesus would soon return. God blessed their efforts, and they established many new groups of believers, fruit that remains to this day. The first team of workers was sent to Xinjiang in 1947, where they won people to Christ among many ethnic groups including Muslim Uygurs, Hui and Kazaks. One hymn composed by the movement typifies their dedication:
"Brothers and sisters, work hard for the Lord, for the Lord, for the Lord.
Bring the Gospel back to Jerusalem, tramping over hill and dale, on foot and by boat,
Making a way in the wilderness and the desert.
Selling and giving up possessions to do the will of God;
Shedding tears and sweat, following where the Lord leads….
Men and women, young and old, foolish and wise,
Make up your mind to sacrifice and be willing to shed blood to repay the deep love of the Lord."4
Zhang Guquan moved to the town of Hami, which became the movement’s base of operations to reach into other parts of northwest China. A chapel and nursery were established, and a small Bible school opened. The work progressed until persecution struck in 1951. In the early part of the year the believers in Kashgar were arrested. The following year Zhang and his colleagues were thrown into prison at Hami. For years nothing was heard of Zhang, but it was later reported,
“Zhang died in prison in 1956 when he was in his early 30s. Other leaders also died for the Lord. Quite a few who survived the long trek from Shandong to Xinjiang could not stand the test and wavered from the faith, speaking out against Zhang and the Movement. Later they were sent back to Shandong. Those who kept their faith and stayed behind faced a very bitter life.... They had become the refuse of the world, ‘the scourge of all things’ (1 Cor. 4:13). They were willfully wronged, suppressed, persecuted, insulted, beaten… For the sake of the Lord they were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction.”5
1. Also known as the Northwest Evangelistic Band.
2. Guang, “God’s Messengers in Xinjiang,” Bridge (October-November 1988), p. 16.
3. Paul Hattaway, Back to Jerusalem: God’s Call to the Chinese Church to Complete the Great Commission (Carlisle: Piquant, 2003), p. 49.
4. Guang, “God’s Messengers in Xinjiang,” p. 17.
5. Guang, “God’s Messengers in Xinjiang,” p. 18.
© This article is an extract from Paul Hattaway's book 'Shandong: The Revival Province'. You can order this or any of The China Chronicles books and e-books from our online bookstore.